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Aarogya Setu will play into an unfolding narrative of greater governmental control: Shashi Tharoor

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Thiruvananthapuram, May 8 : Sixty-four-year-old former Under-Secretary General of the UN, Shashi Tharoor ever since he stepped into an unknown area of politicking has had no reason to look back and today is rated as one of the most popular Congress MPs.

Into his third term as the Lok Sabha member from the state capital, Tharoor today is one who has been taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a wide ranging issues, has been critical on the security of the Aarogya Setu App.

Now stationed at Delhi, as he could not make it to Kerala following the lockdown, even as he is busy finishing his latest book on ‘nationalism’, Tharoor, opened up on various Covid-19 issues to IANS.

Q: You have said COVID-19 must not become an excuse for the creation of a ‘surveillance state’ in India, do you fear such a thing?

A: Yes. I am concerned that in the present atmosphere, where the government has already used the excuse of the pandemic to arrogate great powers to itself to enforce the ongoing lockdown, charged journalists, arrested student protestors, banned gatherings and severely restricted the functioning of courts, denying bail to many, there are genuine concerns that the Aarogya Setu app will play into an unfolding narrative of greater government control.

Q: You have taken on PM Modi over his appeals to bang utensils, light lamps and candles , Can’t it be seen as just a call to boost the morale of the people of India?

A: Oh I fully appreciated that and appreciated his instinct for symbolic gestures. My question at the time was, is this enough? Are there not more important issues relating to COVID19 that the PM ought to have been sharing with the nation?

Q: Since you are a global personality, did you get any response over Modi’s call from any quarters?

A: A number of my foreign friends were concerned about the communally-charged atmosphere in the country, especially involving demonisation of the Muslim community. Otherwise the thaali/taali/diya call attracted neither adverse comment nor praise.

Q: Do you think that the flypast held to honour Corona warriors was to overcome the blunder of banging utensils and lighting lamps?

A: It was a grossly insensitive misuse of taxpayer resources at this time, when so many Indians are starving, trudging home in despair, unemployed and uncertain what the next day will bring. At least the utensils and lamps didn’t cost the exchequer anything. This pointless and wasteful show did. The politics of the empty gesture is frankly beneath what we expect from our armed forces.

Q: What happened in the US, UK and a few other developed countries, where things have gone from bad to worse?

A: Each country has its own reality. India imposed a stringent lockdown before either of those countries did. That was the right thing to do, though it could have been better planned and people should have been given more notice to make the necessary arrangements. With planning and notice, it could probably have come ten days earlier. But as we know, the effect of our lockdown has been temporary, with the number of cases still climbing every day.

Q: Doubts have been raised about the manner of testing going on across the country. Your views on it?

A: We have been caught largely unprepared, with a grave shortage of test kits, a mix of different kinds of testing, some defective or faulty imported kits and some unreliable results. There are stories that some deaths may not have been attributed to Covid but should have been; however, doctors could not afford to waste test kits on those who were already dead! I think the answer lies in rapid approval and manufacturing of the indigenously-developed RT-LAMP test kits devised by the Sree Chitra Institute in Thiruvananthapuram. It is unconscionable the way the ICMR has been dragging its feet on approving these. There are always too many vested interests impeding any genuine progress.

Q: Kerala has been applauded for the way the pandemic has been handled and don’t you think, any government here given the strong foundation successive governments have worked up, would have done the same?

A: Yes, full marks to the Kerala government but even fuller marks to the Kerala society and system, built up over generations! There is fortunately a bipartisan political consensus in the state on a strong public health infrastructure, decentralised administration, community participation and effective welfare measures. I think any party in power would have done as well.

Q: Your party leaders here are up in arms against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan calling his daily press briefing as nothing but a PR exercise. What do you think ?

A: I believe in the importance of open and transparent communication to the public at moments of crisis like this. I think my colleagues were criticising the content and tone of the briefings.

Q: Although the pandemic has been a disaster to the human race, don’t you think it has become a boon for the environment?

A: In the short term, yes. In Delhi the air is actually breathable for the first time in a couple of decades! It will only be a boon in the long term if people insist that they don’t want to lose all these gains entirely when “normalcy” resumes.

Q: Is it possible to bring the idea of eco friendly practices locally amongst all and what would you suggest to start with?

A: The prescriptions are widely known — a National Clean Air Policy with actionable goals for industry, vehicles, construction and farming; a Clean Water policy to deal with toxic sludge being poured into our rivers; extensive rainwater harvesting, major incentives for alternative energy, an end to single-use plastics, and so on. The challenge is to develop the political will to get it done.

Q: Is it possible to start for constant monitoring of carbon emissions by companies and businesses alike?

A: Yes.

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Who is Preetika Chauhan? Everything to know about ‘Savdhaan India’ actress arrested by NCB

Saavdhan India’ actress Preetika Chauhan (30) was among one of the people who got arrested after getting caught buying drugs. Here’s everything about her!

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The Narcotics Control Bureau made two more arrests in the drug supply case on Sunday. ‘Saavdhan India’ actress Preetika Chauhan (30) was among one of the people who got arrested after getting caught for buying drugs red-handed.

Who is Preetika Chauhan?

Preetika Chauhan hails from Karsog, Himachal Pradesh. She is a B.Tech graduate and had made her acting debut with the film Jhamela, which was released in 2016.

She went on to play goddess Shachi in Sankat Mochan Mahabali Hanumaan.

Apart from Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman, Preetika Chauhan also had appeared in a few episodes of CID and Savdhaan India. She was also seen as Bhudevi in Star Bharat show Jag Janni Maa Vaishno Devi.

Preetika was last seen as Goddess Parvati in Santoshi Maa – Sunayein Vrat Kathayein. Preetika was also part of the TV show ‘Devon Ke Dev Mahadev’.

The case is in the ongoing investigation in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case. The Bollywood drugs nexus case came to light while a parallel investigation was being carried out by the NCB.

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Only 7% plan on going out to movie theatres in the next 60 days

Results of July, August and October survey by LocalCircles indicate that people continue to stay reluctant in going to theatres and multiplexes due to the Covid-19 scare.

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Even though movie theatres are now open, only 7 per cent people are willing to go to watch a film there in the next 60 days, as per a survey.

Results of July, August and October survey by LocalCircles indicate that people continue to stay reluctant in going to theatres and multiplexes due to the Covid-19 scare.

Cinema halls across the states were allowed to reopen after seven months of the ongoing pandemic induced by the novel coronavirus.

Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are some of the states where theatres and multiplexes have started to function. Cinema halls remain closed in states like Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and many northeastern states.

LocalCircles conducted a survey to know if citizens if plan on visiting movie theatres in the next 2 months. The survey received 8,274 responses from across the country.

In the survey, citizens were asked, “now that the multiplexes and theatres are open in many states and the remaining states will also open them soon, will they be going to watch a movie in the next 60 days?”

However, only 4 per cent said they would go to watch if any new releases come and 3 per cent said they will go regardless of new or old movie. 74 per cent said they will not go while 2 per cent were unsure and 17 per cent said they don’t watch movies in theatre.

LocalCircles had conducted similar surveys during past few months to know how people plan to go out to watch movies when the theatres and multiplexes reopen. In the July survey, 72 per cent consumers had said that they will not go to theatres or multiplexes when they open, keeping the Covid-19 scenario in mind.

This number increased to 77 per cent in August and stands at 74 per cent in October.

Cinema halls claim to have taken various measures to ensure safety, such as sanitisation of their premises and other Covid-19 safety protocols. Among others, some of them have started the movie shows with 50 per cent of the total occupancy, staggered show timings, social distancing, thermal screening, adequate protection gear for the staff, etc.

But all said and done, it looks like people continue to be reluctant in going to a theatre or multiplex in the next 60 days, the survey said.

States that are considering opening multiplexes and cinema halls in the coming weeks may want to consider this consumer feedback and accordingly make their decision.

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2020 lockdowns to drive new forms of automation: Report

Document extraction, robotic process automation (RPA) from anywhere, drones and various employee robots will proliferate.

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The ‘great lockdown of 2020 will make the drive for automation in 2021 both inevitable and irreversible and remote work, new digital muscles and pandemic constraints will create millions of pragmatic automations, according to a new report.

Document extraction, robotic process automation (RPA) from anywhere, drones and various employee robots will proliferate.

“In 2021, up to 30 per cent of organisations will ramp up their focus on quality by better planning and testing automation before deploying it to production or exposing it to employees,” said the Forrester report on automation.

Three times as many information workers will work from home all or most of the time, while many companies will institute hybrid models in which workers come to the office less often.

“As a result of the pandemic, new forms of automation will support one in four remote workers either directly or indirectly by 2022”.

Direct support in the form of giving a bot to individual workers to support their daily journey will be rare.

However, indirect support will blossom, as intelligent automation handles employee benefits questions and supports document, customer service, and line-of-business tasks that are often invisible to the home worker, the findings showed.

Recent rapid growth in the consumer drones industry has sparked momentum in the commercial drone market.

While social distancing is a factor in drone usage, two forces will accelerate adoption in 2021.

“First, governments are crafting better regulations to facilitate drone adoption and commercialization, with Amazon Prime Air gaining FAA approval for drone deliveries and India driving drone pilot training with new policies,” according to the report.

Second, the rapid evolution of computer vision and 5G will enable real-time drone intelligence over ultra-reliable, low-latency communications.

Like machine learning, RPA will become an embedded feature of many platforms by the end of 2021.

“But rushed and haphazard automation exposes systems and the business to serious risk, so the lack of focus on automation quality is alarming, the report warned.

It can lead to monumental failures that not only damage a company’s reputation and customer trust but also limit broader public trust in automation (specifically AI) as a result of media scrutiny, it added.

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